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Titans Add QB O'Donnell

The Tennessee Titans wanted a veteran to back up Steve McNair. Neil O'Donnell needed a chance to prove he remains a quality NFL quarterback.

He now has a year to prove it.

The Titans confirmed Friday they have agreed on a one-year contract for O'Donnell, who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals in April after starting 11 games last season.

The Titans had been looking for a veteran to back up McNair since Steve Matthews failed to live up to expectations. Dave Krieg, who backed up McNair the past two seasons, had remained an option, but at age 40 he was never the first choice.

General manager Floyd Reese said O'Donnell's experience in the AFC Central made him a good match.

"He is the type of player who can come in and win five or six games for us in the event of an injury to Steve," said Reese.

O'Donnell, who has been working out on his own in New Jersey, could not be reached for comment.

"He knew when a big play was necessary and was able to convert those opportunities," said Yancey Thigpen, one of O'Donnell's favorite receiver when both were in Pittsburgh.

The deal, expected to be signed this weekend, differs significantly from O'Donnell's previous two contracts. He is due to earn approximately $1.1 million, with incentives clauses that could add up to $1.5 million more.

The Bengals gave him a four-year, $17 million deal last summer, only to release him in April after using their top draft choice on quarterback Akili Smith.

Cincinnati signed O'Donnell after the New York Jets cut him loose from the five-year, $25 million deal he signed after leading Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl in 1996.

O'Donnell started 11 games and played in 13 last season with Cincinnati. His quarterback rating was third best in the AFC and was 10 points higher than McNair's, but he was benched after Cincinnati lost eight of its first 10 games.

Last year he completed 212 of 343 passes (62 percent) for 2,216 yards, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.

He spent his first six seasons in the NFL with Pittsburgh before moving to the Jets for two years and then to Bengals.

He has the best interception ratio in NFL history, with 57 interceptions in 2,862 attempts. But his three in the 1996 Super Bowl were instrumental in the Steelers' loss to Dallas.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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